Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 6th, 2013

There are no safe choices. Only other choices.

Libba Bray

West North
Both ♠ A K 10 7 4 2
 A 7 4 3
♣ K 3
West East
♠ Q 6
 K Q 9 6 5
 J 9
♣ 10 7 6 4
♠ J 9 5 3
 10 4 2
 Q 10 8 2
♣ 8 5
♠ 8
 J 8 7 3
 K 6 5
♣ A Q J 9 2
South West North East
Pass 1♠ Pass
2♣ Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3♠ Pass
3 NT Pass 5 NT* Pass
6♣ All pass    

*Pick a slam


Today's deal sees how modern bidding and the use of conventions can occasionally solve what could be knotty problems in the auction. (Of course, as we shall see, it is all very well to bid to the best contract, but you also have to make it!).

North described his powerhouse by bidding his long suits, then repeating his spades, in an auction that his partnership played as game-forcing. Over South’s rebid of three no-trump, North decided to commit the hand to slam, and his jump to five no-trump offered a choice of slams, strongly suggesting his precise hand pattern. South was delighted to propose playing in his chunky five-card suit, and North had no reason to mistrust his partner’s judgment.

Take a moment or two – or maybe more – to plan the play in six clubs on the lead of a top heart. The normal route seems to rely on ruffing out the spades (taking heart ruffs in dummy seems to set up trump winners for the defenders). But the risk of overruffs or losing control is very real. So what plan is best?

The answer is to win the heart ace and immediately to duck a spade! The defenders can achieve nothing by forcing dummy to ruff a heart – declarer unblocks the trump king, ruffs a spade in hand, then draws trump and claims. Likewise, on a diamond return at trick three, declarer wins the king, crosses to the club king, ruffs a spade, then can draw trump, using the diamond ace as the entry for the spades.

However tempting it might be to rebid your hearts here, that virtually guarantees a six-card suit. If you had the heart 10 instead of the five, you might make that call because the suit would be quite playable facing a singleton; but here a rebid of one no-trump is more descriptive of your hand.


♠ Q 6
 K Q 9 6 5
 J 9
♣ 9 7 6 4
South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 1♠ Pass

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuApril 20th, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Hi Bobby, this hand shows the importance of ducking the first spade and ruffing the second to guard against a 4-1 break in East or West,as our trump fit is 5-2 and not 5-3 or 5-4,declarer has four losers 1D and 3H,and not enough trumps in dummy to ruff them and still cater for 4-1 trump break.Ducking the first spade keeps the position fluid:kx clubs in dummy to cover heart force and declarer in control.Please could you help with this bidding problem:after two passes West opens two spades weak,North doubles(t/out 12+)East passes,South holds K1075 82 QJ3 K1065,what would you bid with this? Does 2NT here shows 8-11 if not playing Lebenshol. If playing Lebenshol, would you bid 2NT and over North’s 3C bid 3NT to play with South’s hand? All new suits bid by South are forcing here in Lebenshol apart from 2NT.North held 86 AK63 A65 AQ87.Your thoughts would be much appreciated-Patrick.

bobbywolffApril 21st, 2013 at 12:06 am

Hi Patrick,

Small correction, 4-1 in spades should be 4-2 since declarer had 6-1 (only 7 combined). Also 4-1 adverse trump break (clubs) should also be 4-2.

In response to your bidding question I would bid 2NT natural (I do not like, so do not play Lebensohl in this spot since I think a natural 2NT is much too valuable and descriptive to sacrifice it to what I consider, the overrated Lebensohl in this situation.

Yes, there is a problem and too wide a range with a mere suit bid at the 3 level (in response to a TO dbl by partner), but to me, playing Lebensohl, in spite of it being popular here, only creates a bigger problem, which I could go much deeper into, but will not at this time.

Playing my suggested way North, of course, has an easy 3NT raise over my natural 2NT which shows about (7-10). Yes again, I guess it would be a percentage bid to now bid 3NT, but partner may have a, 1-4-3-5 12 count and 3 clubs may be making while 3NT will be going down several tricks.

It is always amusing to me when advocates of certain conventions either write in a book or in a column about the advantages of this and that treatment, but rarely will that author state the disasters which often lurk.

I do think Lebensohl is a plus factor, but far from slam dunk perfect, after your side opens 1NT and there is interference, but other than that, I just have had terrible experiences while playing it in the above situation.

Patrick CheuApril 21st, 2013 at 8:06 am

Hi Bobby, my very sincere thanks for your invaluable help and for correcting my errors:) Playing 2NT as 7-10,therefore in response to T/out double,how would you play your three clubs,diamonds and hearts by South?Wish I was able to ask you when there were a thousand and one questions in competitive auctions that went wrong in competitions of years gone by…Best regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffApril 21st, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hi Patrick,

Although quite imperfect, I would tend to respond at the 3 level (sometimes and mercifully only at the 2 level) by bidding my longest suit, concentrating on either the other major or after a weak two diamond bid by differentiating between 2 of a major and 3 by 0-8 at the two level and 8+-11 at the 3 level except when holding a major suit when a jump to either 3 or 4 of the major should probably be done with a good 10.

The doubler should only raise a 3 level major suit response to 4 with 18+ and with 21+, cue bid instead of a mere raise usually when partner’s specific response has made even a very good hand even better.

While the above response seems like a mish mosh and much too wide ranges, the opponents by their actions seem to help clarify to the 2 bid opposition, making it an easier and a less harrowing experience in practice than in theory.

It is important to remember that ethics does require a minimum response with 0 points to be made at the same tone and tempo as would one with a maximum.

Yes, the flag is up and waving on an IMP swing in the making, but my experience requires good judgment on both sides and often, even worthy opponents, do not do the right thing in response, in spite of sometimes having a chance to win many IMPs at either team bridge or in rubber bridge, achieving a significant penalty.

It is also well to keep in mind that even among top players their judgments seem to be different even if only slightly, and knowing your partner’s tendencies should help to achieve partnership harmony.

And finally, in spite of this problem which has obviously caused some to turn to Lebensohl does not, at least to me, swing the pendulum to that convention.

TedApril 21st, 2013 at 4:52 pm

If playing Lebensohl, South can bid 3C. North, knowing South has some values, bids 3S and South has an easy 3NT response.

bobbywolffApril 21st, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hi Ted,

All you say is true, but it is not as direct, sometimes a critical factor, as a natural 2NT response which already shows spades stopped (with some outside values) and then without fanfare will immediately allow the TO doubler to accept the invitation and raise to 3NT.

Less convolution is not only helpful, while bidding in our great game, but sometimes the difference between following up and closing the issue with success.

And what about, when partner has a minimum, wouldn’t the responder to partner’s double rather have mentioned the key issue to what is hand tells him, that spades are well enough stopped, so that partner can better evaluate his hand.

Ted, thanks for writing, and particular your concise wise retort, but everything considered, bridge is difficult enough, without having to go through more than one step to get across what the responder should be able to say in one bid.

Patrick CheuApril 21st, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Hi Bobby, many thanks again for given us your(much appreciated) thoughts,which will enable us to develop a more constructive approach to the problem of 2H and 2S opening.Doing things with good reasoning will hopefully achieve the right result in the long run.Best Regards-Patrick.